The Gulf of Mexico is an area that offers many workers in the Houston area attractive, well-paying offshore jobs, especially in the oil and gas industry. Many of the occupations in the offshore industry are inherently dangerous, however, and workers can be injured in a wide variety of different accidents in these settings.
Offshore accidents become very complicated legal matters, however, because the locations of accidents can mean that certain maritime or admiralty laws may apply to personal injury cases. Other federal or state laws could come into play in certain instances, so it is often wise for any offshore accident victim to obtain the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Our firm understands the many struggles that people face after offshore accidents, and we do all that we can to help you bring some normalcy back to your life or as close as possible to that. We can discuss your legal options with you when you call (713) 659-4000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
Do I Need an Offshore Injuries Lawyer?
Many different factors can complicate an offshore injury case, including the aforementioned jurisdictional issues relating to the case. Perhaps the first reason for hiring an attorney with a command of all relevant law is so you can be sure that you are seeking relief in the proper venue.
Another important reason to work with a lawyer is because they have the skills to conduct an independent investigation into what happened. When an accident is the result of an employer’s negligence or because of defective equipment, for example, an attorney can gather all of the evidence needed to support your claim.
Additionally, a lawyer is going to know how to identify the potential at-fault parties (which may include shell corporations) and hold them accountable. This is important because some offshore accidents involve multiple liable parties.
If you are contacted by an insurance company adjuster for one of the parties about your accident, always decline to provide a statement and instead refer the adjuster to your lawyer.
An insurer may also offer a lump sum settlement to resolve your claim. In most instances, it will be much less than what you are actually entitled. Never rush into any settlement; seek legal advice first. An experienced attorney will be able to properly evaluate your case and thus help you recover full and fair compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an offshore accident, the experienced lawyers of Gibson Hill Personal Injury are eager to help
Why Choose Gibson Hill Personal Injury To Handle My Case?
Gibson Hill Personal Injury handles all kinds of offshore injury cases that occur in the Gulf of Mexico. We are willing to meet with you in your hospital room or home if you are not up to coming to our office.
Ty Gibson and Brett Michael Hill have more than a decade of combined experience. They both earned Juris Doctor degrees from South Texas College of Law.
Mr. Hill is also a member of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association. He received the Heart of Advocacy award from the South Texas College of Law.
You will also want to retain Gibson Hill Personal Injury because we represent clients on a contingency fee basis. You only pay us when you obtain a monetary award in your case.
Types of Offshore Injury Cases We Handle
In addition to Texas statutes that may apply, including state-regulated workers’ compensation or laws governing personal injury, maritime and admiralty laws frequently come into play in many offshore injury cases. Some of the laws that apply to such cases often include the following:
- Jones Act — The Jones Act allows injured seamen to sue employers for financial compensation when the negligence of the employer or a fellow crewmember, or unseaworthiness of the vessel, caused the injuries.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) — The LHWCA is essentially workers’ compensation for injured seamen and provides compensation for medical treatment and lost wages regardless of fault.
- Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) — DOHSA allows the spouse, parent, or other dependent of a worker killed in international waters at least three miles offshore to recover damages when a death was caused by negligence or unseaworthiness.
Note that at a worker on a permanently anchored oil drilling platform would likely not qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act. Your lawyer can advise you any of these federal laws apply to the facts of your case.
Common kinds of offshore accidents include:
- Offshore drilling accidents
- Oil rig explosions
- Shipyard worker injuries
- Oil rig platform accidents
- Marine cargo accidents
- Commercial fishing accidents
- Drilling rig accidents
- Crane accidents
- Jack-up rig accidents
- Ferry boat accidents
- Cruise ship injuries
- Tanker accidents
- Freighter accidents
- Barge accidents
- Tugboat accidents
- Trawler accidents
All of these accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Burn injuries
- Muscle strains
As mentioned, certain laws present different requirements. The responsible party’s negligence needs to be proven in some cases while other benefits require a lesser standard of evidence. A seasoned offshore accident lawyer can guide you through the legal technicalities governing your specific claim.
Steps to Take After a Maritime Injury
If you’ve just been injured in a maritime accident, here a few steps to take immediately:
- Get to safety. Move away from danger and to a place where you can assess your injury safely.
- Get medical attention. Seek help from qualified medical personnel. Advise them about the type of accident, that it happened at work, and about any injuries you may have sustained, no matter how small.
- Advise your employer. Let your supervisor know that you’ve been injured on the job.
- Document everything. Start a paper record of the accident from your perspective. Take photos and document as much as possible. Do not rely on your employer or on-site medical personnel to give an accurate description of what occurred. Start building your own record as soon as possible.
- Watch what you say. Do not apologize or claim responsibility for the accident, even in passing or off the record. Anything you say can be used against you in an injury claim.
- Do not sign anything. Avoid signing any written statement or document regarding your accident until after you’ve spoken to a qualified attorney.
What Does an Offshore Injury Investigation Look Like?
Once you’ve received proper medical care following your accident and contacted Gibson Hill Personal Injury with experience in offshore injuries will be vital during this investigation. Using our experience, skill, and resources, we will fight to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.
What Damages Are Typically Rewarded in Offshore Injuries?
Offshore and maritime workers are protected under the Jones Act, formerly called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This law provides specific protections and provisions for maritime workers that extend beyond a standard worker’s compensation claim, specifically the provision granting maintenance and cure compensation. The Jones Act provides compensation for the following:
- Physical pain, including disability, disfigurement, or inconvenience
- Mental anguish, anxiety, or embarrassment
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
There are two basic types of monetary damages awarded in maritime accidents: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate a victim for the injuries sustained in an accident caused by the employer’s negligence or unsafe working conditions on-site.
Punitive damages are designed to punish an employer for gross negligence or carelessness that led to an employee’s accident. Compensatory damages usually do not require admitting fault, while punitive damages require the employer to admit fault and show how they will prevent the accident from reoccurring.
The amount of monetary damages received varies widely depending on the type of accident, injuries, and working conditions on-site.
The experienced lawyers of Gibson Hill Personal Injury serve offshore accident victims in the greater Houston area
Texas Laws and Statutes Regarding Offshore Injuries
Although most personal injury claims in Texas must be filed within two years of the date of injury, the statute of limitations to file a Jones Act claim in Texas is three years. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to file an injury claim for your accident. Some of the other laws and regulations governing offshore accidents include the following:
- The Jones Act: governs shipping between ports in the US and regulates offshore activities.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act: provides support and compensation for maritime employees such as offshore workers, shipbuilders, and harbor workers that are injured on the navigable waters of the US.
- Death on the High Seas Act: governs death or injury occurring more than 3 nautical miles from the United States shore.
These are only a few of the applicable laws regarding offshore work injuries in Texas. It’s important that you hire an experienced attorney to determine which of these laws apply to your case and determine how much compensation you are owed. Contact Gibson Hill Personal Injury today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Offshore Injuries
At Gibson Hill Personal Injury, we are dedicated to aggressively advocating for those injured in offshore accidents. With that commitment in mind, we have provided answers to some of the questions commonly raised by our clients.
What should I bring to my free consultation?
You should bring as much information regarding your accident as possible. Photos, medical reports, accident reports, employer details, and a personal written account of the day of the accident would all be applicable. The more information and documentation you can provide, the better we can help you get compensation.
How long will my case take?
This depends on several factors, including the type and severity of your injury, the circumstances of the accident, and your employer’s insurance company. If you’re injured, and your employer immediately admits fault, your claim may be paid fairly quickly. If your employer’s insurance company denies your injury claim, you may have to file a lawsuit. Getting money after a lawsuit is filed can take anywhere from months to years. An insurance company might try to pressure you to take a settlement offer far below what you deserve just to resolve your claim out of court more quickly, which is why it’s important to have a knowledgeable attorney fighting for you.
Will insurance companies offer me fair compensation?
In short, no. It’s in an insurance company’s best interests to deny your claim. These companies make money by collecting premiums and finding any reason they can to deny compensation to victims of workplace accidents.
What is maintenance and cure?
Injured seamen are usually entitled to maintenance and cure, with maintenance meaning a seaman’s daily living expenses and cure applying to medical bills. A seaman typically receives maintenance and cure until they reach maximum medical improvement.
What is maximum medical improvement?
Maximum medical improvement (MMI) refers to the point where medical professionals declare that an injury victim has reached the limits of their recovery and their ability to improve. Many employers and insurance companies can be in a rush to declare a person as reaching MMI even when there might still be some hope for additional health improvement.
Will I be 'blacklisted' for filing an injury claim?
The idea of a blacklist is a common misconception among many offshore workers. There is a perception that filing a personal injury claim will result in that worker being added to some kind of list that will prohibit them from ever again working offshore. The truth is that there likely is no such list; it would likely be a violation of state or federal law for an employer to discriminate against a prospective employee because of any previous personal injury claim.
Houston Offshore Injuries Statistics
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported that 2017 involved the fewest incidents at the Outer Continental Shelf of any year since 2007 with 429 total incidents. It was also the first year that did not involve a fatality.
Incidents in 2017 included 11 collisions, 53 evacuations and musters, 73 fires and explosions, 16 gas releases, 150 injuries, 126 lifting incidents, and 10 spills. The two years with the most fatalities were 2010 and 2012 with a dozen in each year.
According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, there were 277 injuries in Outer Continental Shelf incidents in 2014. The incidents resulted in 26 loss time accidents between one and three days, 53 loss time accidents of more than three days, 30 cases of restricted work or transfer between one and three days, 66 cases of restricted work or transfer of more than three days, and 69 cases categorized as other.
There were 134 fires or explosions in 2012, 121 in 2014, and 103 in both 2013 and 2011. One fire or explosion in 2011 was categorized as major (meaning more than $1 million in damage) and two were major in 2012. There were four minor (i.e., more than $25,000 but less than $1 million in damages) fires or explosions in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and three such fires or explosions in 2014. Incidental ($25,000 or less in total damages) fires, or explosions were much more common, with 98 in 2011, 128 in 2012, 99 in 2013, and 102 in 2014.
There were 14 collisions in 2011, nine in 2012, 23 in 2013, and 12 in 2014. Minor collisions, meaning $25,000 or less in damage, included two in 2011, one in 2012, seven in 2013, and five in 2014. There were 12 major (more than $25,000 in damage) collisions in 2011, eight in 2012, 16 in 2013, and seven in 2014.
Crane issues were the most common kind of other accidents cited by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, with the 94 such incidents in 2011, 120 in 2012, 140 in 2013, and 146 in 2014 all being the highest totals in the category for each year. Muster for evacuation was the second-highest for each year, with 35 incidents in 2011, 41 in 2012, 55 in 2013, and 43 in 2014. The 352 incidents classified as other in 2014 were the most of any year in this four-year period.
Offshore injuries are common because the working environment is one of the most dangerous in the world. According to a 2014 study, offshore oil and gas workers are seven times more likely to die on the job than onshore workers. A normal American worker has a fatality rate of about 3.7 per 100,000 people, whereas an offshore worker has a fatality rate of approximately 25 per 100,000 people.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that between 2003 and 2013, the number or work-related fatalities in the oil and gas industry increased by almost 30%.
Also according to the CDC, there were 128 fatalities related to offshore oil and gas operations in the United States from 2003 to 2010, an average of 16 per year, and only one fatality did not occur in Gulf of Mexico operations. The leading cause of fatalities was transportation events totaling 65 (51 percent), followed by 21 contact with objects or equipment (16 percent), 17 fires and explosions (13 percent), and 16 exposure to harmful substances/environments (13 percent).
Contact an Offshore Injuries Attorney in Houston Today
Did you sustain severe injuries or was your loved one harmed or killed in an offshore accident in the Houston area? Our firm is devoted to bringing justice to those who have suffered offshore injuries. Whether at the negotiating table or in court, we are fully prepared to seek the full range of financial compensation that you and your family deserve